GPSIs may lead roll-out of patient 'fit for work' plans

A network of GPSIs in occupational medicine should be established to lead the roll-out of a Fit for Work service, according to a GP involved in the development of the new sickness scheme.

The Fit for Work service was proposed last week by Dame Carol Black, national director for health and work, as part of her overhaul of the current sickness scheme in England.

The service would help GPs offer patients, via an electronic 'fit note' system, a range of services like physiotherapy and cognitive behavioural therapy.

This is designed to get patients back into work as soon as possible and reduce the number of sick notes being issued by GPs.

Dr Robert Hampton, a GP in Leicestershire was a member of the GP advisory group for Dame Carol's review. He believes that there is an opportunity for GPSIs in occupational health to be appointed as clinical directors for health and work at primary care organisation level to help in the running of the Fit for Work programme.

'They would work with non-medical employment advisors and have rapid access to medical, psychological or rehabilitation services,' he said.

'GPs could refer to such a service in their locality when faced with workers at risk of long- term sickness and devolve responsibility for further sickness certification to the GPSI.

'We have a GPSI-led team ready with a one-year pilot proposal here in Leicestershire.'

Both Dame Carol and her GP sounding board supported the GPSI proposal, but as yet no funding has been made available for it, he said.

There are an estimated 3,200 occupational medicine GPSIs in the UK, added Dr Hampton.

A spokeswoman for the DoH said: 'Many GPs have taken on a special interest as part of their development, and so have extended the range of skills available to patients. 'It is for local commissioners to decide which types of service and which providers of them meet the needs of the local population.'

Working for a healthier tomorrow report 2008

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